Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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August 21, 2012

Mentors Make Their Mark

Theodore Hysell, 25, of Minneapolis had just completed his training with the Creating IT Futures Foundation’s IT-Ready program when he faced his next crucial challenge: an interview with his first potential employer.

For advice, he turned to a person he’d never even met in person: his IT-Ready Mentor, Rick Shafer, a senior IT technician with Avaya Communication in Asheville, N.C.

“I just wanted to let you know I have my first IT job interview on July 3rd,” typed Hysell. “Can you give me a few tips on how to go about preparing for the interview? Are they any different characteristics they might be looking for? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. Theodore.”

An hour later, Shafer emailed Hysell back. He told his charge to pay close attention to how he comported himself in the interview. “In general they are going to be looking at appearance, a positive attitude, and confidence (not arrogance) for starters. First impressions go a long way.”

The advice arrived in time, and Hysell landed the job.

“A follow-up for you: I have finished week number two at SecureConnect. Talk about a whirlwind of information and things to understand. Just wanted to give you a quick catch up. Regards, Theo.”

Mentorship has been proven in a number of studies to help employees adjust to new situations. Because many of the IT-Ready participants are new to the IT field, a mentoring component was built into the IT-Ready program model right from the beginning, said Colleen Attwell, director of development for the Creating IT Futures Foundation.

“We didn’t know exactly how our students would respond to being mentored remotely,” Attwell said. “Not all of our students took advantage of the service, but many did, and they reported mentorship to be extremely helpful to them during and after their training.”

Connecting with someone who has been working in information technology for a long time is a bonus for the IT-Ready participants. In the program are adults who are unemployed or under-employed and come from a number of different educational and work backgrounds.

“I found Ricky’s advice to be pivotal,” Hysell said. “He has 30 years of experience and frankly, knows what he's talking about. It made my transition into the job I am fortunate enough to have now, very easy.”

The mentors benefit as well.

“It has been enjoyable,” said Jose Guerra, founder and president of L5 Source. “It’s important that we all look at ways of mentoring people to help them leverage our experience, insights, personal learnings, and network contacts.”

Guerra is no newcomer to mentoring. He started his career at Procter and Gamble, which has a “very strong personal development and coaching culture.”  

Guerra was actually able to meet in person several times with his mentee, Alex Broome. That’s unusual: Most of the mentoring pairs had to rely on phone, video chat, and email.

“I was not able to meet in person with my mentee but that was the beauty of it: With today’s technology you can help someone in a completely different city and state through phone conversations and online meetings,” said Portia Stewart-Waller, technology team leader for USLI in Wayne, Pa.

Stewart-Waller was paired with IT-Ready participant Ama Boateng, who recently began a full-time paid apprenticeship with Pomeroy.

“It feels great to be able to give back when others have also helped me,” Stewart-Waller explained.

Chances are good that the mentoring relationships could continue moving forward in the mentees’ careers. “I firmly believe that a mentor/mentee relationship is an on-going effort,” said Guerra, who was a mentor to a Xavier University business school student a couple of years ago. “He and I still keep in touch, even though he now works full time for GE Aviation in North Carolina.”